Conveyor belts are essential to the food industry, but which is best - plastic or metal?

4 benefits of using metal belting in food manufacturing

Food manufacturing relies heavily on conveyor belt systems. Not simply because it's far more efficient than manual labour, but because it's considerably cheaper in the long run. Food manufacturing has to stand up to extremely stringent regulations, and processes differ greatly between different food items.

What works for raw meats won't work for baked goods, so it's important to invest in the right system. Conveyor belts can be made of numerous materials, but we believe that metal is the ideal option for food manufacturing. Here's why.

1) Metal conveyor belts easily meet sanitation requirements

A recall is an enormous headache for those in the food manufacturing industry. Not only can it be extremely expensive, it can also do irreparable damage to a manufacturer's reputation. Metal belts are capable of withstanding the extremely high temperatures and pressure required for sanitation. An additional benefit to metal belts is that they are nonporous. Plastic belts are easily chipped and scratched which can become ideal locations for hazardous chemicals or bacteria.

Is a metal conveyor belt ideal for bread?Metal conveyor belts are perfect for food applications, they can easily manage any temperature and are easy to sanitise.

2) Metal conveyor belts can withstand extreme temperature variation

Food processing will require cooking or cooling, and metal excels in both of these areas.

In addition to sanitation, the heat resilience of metal gets extra points for functionality. Some applications of food processing will require cooking or cooling, and metal excels in both of these areas. A thermal expansion coefficient dictates how a material can expand, contract or otherwise change shape with temperature fluctuations. Most metals have a fairly low coefficient, meaning they retain heat when subjected to temperature change. Plastic can easily melt, warp or simply break during processes that metal will roll through easily.

3) Metal conveyor belts are less environmentally taxing

While virtually no manufacturing operation is without a carbon footprint, plastic is far more taxing on the environment to produce. Plastics are made from petroleum, which isn't exactly the poster child for sustainability. While the production of metal does result in pollutants, the sector has made strides in recent years.

4) Metal conveyor belts offer great flexibility

We don't literally mean the ability to flex, but rather, there is a metal solution for every pain point in food manufacturing. Metal conveyor belts generally have a greater ratio of open area which means they are ideal for baking, cooking, or any application where drainage is important. Furthermore, metal belts can be used effectively in conveyors with singular or multiple tight turns, which reduces the need for manual transferral to another belt.

Locker Group manufactures conveyor belts to any width or length, capable of withstanding temperatures between -250 and 1200 degrees celsius. Our belts are assembled in modules to simplify the maintenance process. Whatever you're cooking, Locker Group has the belt for you.

Get in contact with Locker Group today
Painting your metal products is much easier than you might think, as long as you do the right prep.

How to paint your metal products

We've talked about the myriad of uses for welded or woven wire mesh and perforated or expanded metal before, but what if you need to paint these materials? It can add a new dimension to a completed project, whether making them stand out from, or to more cohesively fit in with, an environment. Thankfully, painting your metal products isn't difficult, but there are a few things you should know going in.

Preparation

To start with you'll want to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What kind of metal are you painting?
  • How does this metal need to be prepped for paint?
  • What are the environmental conditions the paint will need to withstand? 

These questions will help you determine what kind of coating you need to use, and what the surface will need before you approach it.

Ferrous metals are those that contain (or are derived) from iron. These materials are far more susceptible to rust, and will begin to do so as soon as they are in contact with moisture. The first thing you should do with ferrous metals is remove any existing rust. Even if your sheet is brand new, it's worth brushing or sanding the surface once over as a precaution.

Aluminium and galvanised metal will require a thorough wash and rinse to remove oil, dirt, and in the case of galvanised metal, zinc chromate leftover from the galvanising process.

Priming

Ferrous metals need to be primed as soon as you've prepped the surface. Because it's so easy for these materials to rust, it's best to reduce the time they are exposed to moisture. You'll need to use a rust-inhibiting primer here, and to stay on the safe side it's recommended you do two coats. For galvanised metal you should use a corrosion-inhibiting primer because it's less susceptible to rust.

Aluminium (generally) falls into two camps. If it's anodised, you'll only need to make sure it's clean before painting. If it's not anodised, you'll want to make sure any oxidation is removed. From there, you can treat it as essentially ferrous- it must be primed as soon as possible to prevent the surface from being corrupted.

Painting

In terms of top coat, the best bet is to use an exterior latex acrylic paint. This is not the only paint that can be used, but it's likely it will suit the application of metal quite well, and will last longer than other types. It should be available in either a spray can or in larger quantities if you'd prefer a brush or roller. It's recommended you use a spray for more complex or detailed profiles.

Direct-To-Metal (DTM) coatings are also available, which basically mix the primer in with the topcoat for direct application. This can work well, but make sure you check that the DTM you're using will work for your application (both the type of metal and the conditions it will face).

For more information about perforated or expanded metal and woven or welded wire mesh, get in touch with the team at Meshstore today.

Meshstore's quick guide to sheet metal and wire mesh cutting tools.

What are the best tools for cutting wire mesh?

At Meshstore we sell most of our metal sheets in pre-cut sizes. Most of you will know however, that some jobs require precision. Whether you're trimming a few millimetres off the side or cutting custom shapes, you need the right tools for the job. Certain methods can leave abrasive burrs or distortion. 

Here is Meshstore's quick guide to cutting your perforated metal sheets.

What are the variables?

Before going any further we need to understand the variables. If you've just Googled "how to cut metal sheets" we're sorry to say there's more to it than that. Metal sheets aren't created equally, so you need to have a few more specifics to figure out the way forward.

  • Firstly, what is the nature and profile of this sheet? Is it perforated or expanded metal? Is it wire mesh? There are significantly different methods for each.
  • Next, how thick is this sheet? Thinner materials will be easier to cut. What kind of metal are we talking about? Steel is typically harder than aluminium, so this will also need to be considered.
  • Finally, think about your application. Will burrs be dangerous? Does it need to look tidy? Are there any other application specific considerations to make?

What are the best tools to use?

While punch presses, lasers and plasma cutters typically achieve the greatest result (simultaneously sounding rather cool), these resources aren't exactly readily available. Here are our alternative recommendations:

Snips – These are fairly common and cheap, hobbyists may already have a pair and contractors certainly will. Snips are great for cutting thin sheets and wire mesh and are even capable of delicate curves, but you may run into difficulty at lower gauges, particularly if the metal is quite hard. Snips may leave burrs.

Hacksaw – Like snips, chances are most DIYers will already have a hacksaw. Great for thicker gauges that snips can't manage, but harder metals can chew up blades fairly easily. It's very hard to get curved shapes with a hacksaw and the finish will largely depend on the blade you use.

Angle grinder – Powered and portable, an angle grinder can tackle much thicker gauges. An experienced hand may be able to get good curved results, however this might be trickier if you've not used one before. Fast and efficient with a relatively clean cut.

Power shears – Small, powered shears take small bites out of the metal as you manoeuvre the tool across your intended path. They require a little bit of elbow grease to steer properly, but with a bit of practise you can cut complex shapes with power shears. They will often leave a serrated edge that will need to be handled with care. Power shears and angle grinders are both available at your local hardware store.

There are also a number of benchtop cutting tools for more those handling sheet metal and wire mesh more frequently, but that is a matter for another day. Meshstore's range of wire mesh, perforated and expanded metals are suitable for projects of all types. To find out more, pop into a branch today.

Can Australia boost growth in the manufacturing sector?

Is Australia seeing a manufacturing resurgence?

There's a lot of contention as to the current state of manufacturing in Australia. Economists, industry professionals and commentators can't seem to agree on whether manufacturing in Australia is dead in the dirt or that the industry can adapt and overcome the issues that face it.

While we certainly don't claim to have all the answers, we believe it's possible the manufacturing industry can be rebuilt through the same Australian ingenuity that's seen us overcome adversity numerous times before, and this article will explain why. 

Australian manufacturing in the past

Before looking towards the possible futures for manufacturing in Australia, it's key to understand the reasons behind the sector's slowdown. The primary catalyst for the doomsayers was that Australia's automotive manufacturing sector began to draw operations to a close in 2014. Steadily increasing energy costs and the Aussie dollar growing in value have added additional factors of complexity to an already precarious situation.

For some context, the 1960s were the boom years for manufacturing in Australia. During that decade the manufacturing sector peaked at 25 per cent of our gross domestic product. In recent years that figure has dipped to 5.9 per cent (to March 2016, from IBISWorld).

Australian Automotive manufacturing is over, but does that mean the end of manufacturing?Though automotive manufacturing may have ceased, it doesn't mean the industry can't recover from the shortfall.

Australian manufacturing today

While the above statistic may seem fairly negative, it's important to note that slowed growth isn't the same as decline. Furthermore, Australia's GDP is over 3,000 per cent greater than it was in 1969 (though inflation has not been factored in here). The truth of the matter is that the latter half of 2017 saw a lot of fluctuation. With a PMI rating of 51.1 as of November 2017, there is still active growth in the sector even though this growth is small.

The automotive industry may have hit the brakes, turned off the ignition and let the car roll into the Pacific, but there is still enough demand in other industries to keep us moving forward. Materials for apartment and public infrastructure construction are going strong; defence, mining and agricultural equipment continue at pace; renewables and utilities are also still in demand. When framed in this manner, there is no reason to predict The End.

Future

So what does the future hold for Australian manufacturing? 

One thing we do know is that there is a shift coming. Small to medium enterprises make up 97 per cent of Australian businesses, and research from CSIRO suggests a growing demand for more expensive bespoke products over cheaper, mass produced goods. If the majority of Aussie businesses are addressing increasingly niche markets, the concept of producing a lower volume of customised solutions becomes a more sustainable business plan. Added to the fact that Australia is a hotbed for creative tech startups, the possibilities for manufacturing growth in the coming years are numerous and exciting.

Is Australia seeing a manufacturing resurgence? Maybe not today, but ask us again tomorrow.

Locker Group is your go-to for metal industrial supplies, from flooring to railing to access materials, we have you safely covered. For more info, contact us today.

Contact us today
Page 2 of 2712345...1020...Last »